Ezinma Feature Story for Fall/Winter'20

Photography by: Krystena Patton

The power of social media is undeniable, as numerous success stories have emerged through the ever-growing public network. Meredith Ezinma Ramsay, professionally known as Ezinma, is no stranger to this ideology, as she rose to digital-stardom through viral videos of her performing mesmerizing covers of popular hits on the violin. Ezinma, otherwise known as “Classical Bae,” is a multi-string musician whose style cannot be limited to one genre. Her music can be described as “a blend of virtuosic melodies and orchestral soundscapes with hard-hitting beats—a classical fusion that is cinematic, orchestral, and athematic with ambient vibes. This fusion of seemingly unrelated worlds allows Ezinma to connect with diverse audiences and communicate her passion in a way that is uniquely her own.” As Ezinma’s unparalleled talent was rightfully recognized through social media, her career catapulted after she scored the attention of musical superstars such as Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, and Mac Miller. Now, Ezinma has numerous musical credits to her name, as she details how she initially got involved in the music industry, her overall experience performing at Coachella, and an overview of her newest projects, including her non-profit organization, HeartStrings. 

Megan Morgante: Did anything or anyone, in particular, inspire you to pursue the violin?

Ezinma: I went to school on a farm and they had a violin program. One day, I saw these kids playing the violin in their class and I just begged my parents to play. It was really the school program that exposed me initially. 

MM: What did your life look like before you entered the music industry professionally? 

E: Before I entered the music industry professionally, I was in school. I was attending the New School in New York City, working to get my master's degree. I was performing a lot: String quartet, orchestral concerts, solo concerts, and just really being involved in that classical space. After I graduated from school, the real world hits you, and you either get an orchestral job, become a professor, or you freelance. So, I thought, I've been in school for so long, that I just decided to freelance. Slowly, I began to find my way into the popular, mainstream music industry during my time as a freelancer. 

MM: Can you give an overview of your past in the music industry and how it led you to where you are now? 

E: So, the way I got into the music industry was via social media. To backpedal, The New School has this very cool, interdisciplinary program where I took classes in music production, so I began experimenting. When I graduated from school, I was playing in orchestras and doing classical music, but at the same time, making my own music. I started putting my work on social media and initially, nothing crazy happened. Over time, my music started to gain more attention, and soon after, Beyoncé reached out. It was crazy because you never know who's looking at your content, so that was my initial entry into the music industry. From there, I kept doing social media and eventually, I went viral. That led to more opportunities, like working with Kendrick Lamar and playing with Stevie Wonder. Stevie Wonder was my first real gig when I had just graduated from school before I ever went viral. I then got to work with Swizz Beatz and Mac Miller. 

MM: You entered digital stardom by performing viral hits on your violin on YouTube or other social media platforms, one of which being “Mask Off” by Future. Would you say this catapulted your career? 

E: Definitely. The requests and emails after that moment were just insane. It just goes to show how powerful social media is, especially when you're doing something that feels authentic to viewers, people really respond. It's just crazy how much that changed my life.

Photography by: Krystena Patton

MM: Soon after finding stardom, you gained the attention of numerous well-respected musicians, one of which being Beyoncé. What was your reaction when you were initially approached by the mega superstar? 

E: I just couldn't believe it, I was pinching myself. When they first reached out, because of her NDA, I didn't know who the person was. It was a Facebook message from her musical director, Derek Dixie, and when I saw the message, my first reaction was, “...okay, what is this for?” The hours ranged from 11 AM - 4 AM and there was little to no information, so I had several questions. Right before I was about to cancel, Derek called me and said, “…just Google my name.” So, I did and sure enough, it was Beyoncé’s musical producer. That was the beginning of a beautiful three-year relationship with the band and her crew. It really changed my life because I saw how one of the best entertainers in the world makes her shows. I saw how hard she works, how much of a perfectionist she is, and how disciplined she is. I think, especially with social media, we only see the finished products. We only see the perfect body, the hit record; we never see the work that actually goes into it. To be a part of that process and see that something like Coachella or even one show, is a month-long period of preparation. Seeing all of these brilliant people working together, and to be a part of that was really inspiring and gave me the validation to say, “...You got this, you can do this.” 

MM: What would you say was one of your most memorable moments while working with Beyoncé? 

E: I used to do fittings for her. I would wear the clothes, she would look at them, and we would just talk. Sometimes, I would be pinching myself, but then other times, I would think, this is a human being like the rest of us. 

MM: Now, let’s get to a very important question: What was your experience like performing at Coachella alongside Queen B herself?  

E: Being on stage was so exhilarating. I was so proud because she was really doing this for Black culture and the Black community. That was where her inspiration came from; she wanted to give back to the culture. To be a part of that, with all of these amazing people, was something truly historical and monumental. There's so much negativity right now around race relations and politics. I'm proud to be Black every day of my life, but at that moment, I thought, “...Wow, we are so powerful when we're together and we're celebrating culture, using dance and music.” She chose Coachella, which is a pretty affluent, white audience, to make this huge statement. I was deeply honored to be there and be a part of it. 

MM: If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be? 

E: Don't ever compare yourself to anyone. I think a lot of my big disappointments or sadness have been because I'm trying to be something or someone else. At the end of the day, you just have to be who you are, especially now more than ever. Everybody's so tired of having the same look, the same story, and the same type of music. As a younger generation, we’re gravitating towards what's authentic and what's real. So now more than ever, I would say to myself, don't over-pluck your eyebrows and be authentic. 

Photography by: Krystena Patton

MM: You recently just released a new song, Beethoven Pleads the Fifth. Where did you draw your inspiration from when creating your latest masterpiece? 

E: I found this really cool choir sample, which made me think of Meek Mill right away, because his music is always so epic, so I started messing around with it. I then thought, “...What if it could open with Beethoven?” What if I could take Meek Mill and fuse it with Beethoven; that was my initial inspiration for the piece. I started writing and I sent it to my A&R and she said, “...This is so amazing and has such a cool sound.” The idea came from this tiny thing that you probably don't even notice in the song anymore because it’s one small element, but it was really the seed that built the whole piece. 

MM: You’re in the process of launching your own nonprofit foundation, HeartStrings. What can you tell us about this inspiring project? 

E: I really want to give back. I know how fortunate I am to even have the chance to play the violin because the violin isn't always the most accessible instrument. Honestly, no instrument is fully accessible. You have to take lessons and have access to the instrument, while so many schools are cutting their music and arts programming. For me, it was really about giving back and providing more access to kids, specifically kids of color, in the New York City area. I come from an education background. I used to teach and had many students, as I’m a certified educator here in New York. So for me, music is my passion, but my purpose is music education, and I just wanted to give back to the kids. 

MM: Do you have any new or upcoming projects that you're particularly excited about?

E: Well, we have more singles coming out and we're also dropping a full album next year, which is really cool. The cool thing about this quarantine time is it is such a great time to write. You can't really go anywhere, so you might as well write a bunch of music. 

MM: Have you ever experienced any notable challenges throughout your career? 

E: All the time, every day. There are so many instances where I think, “...Being a woman in this industry is really hard.” It’s so difficult to the point where you have to think, “...I know I'm going to be in a studio session with this prominent, male artist. I know his whole entourage is male, he also has male management; so how should I dress to not have any issues when I’m the only woman in the studio?” It’s something that men never have to think about, but it’s something that has been a big challenge for me. Fortunately, I have worked so hard to have a level of skill and talent where I think, “…I'm here for a reason. I'm not just here to be pretty, sitting on your couch, I’m here to work.” When you're a woman and you're in this industry by yourself, it can feel very scary at times, but I have a great team and management filled with women working alongside me. Working with women is something that really matters to me.

Photography by: Krystena Patton

MM: What would you say your biggest accomplishment has been thus far? 

E: Oh, man. I think my biggest accomplishment thus far has been releasing this original single. I was talking with my mom the other day and she said, “...I can't believe all that you've made for yourself.” I'm from Nebraska and I never intended to be in the industry, but, everything that has happened occurred so organically and with such purity. Releasing this single was something that I just couldn't believe we had finally done and it's something I'm very proud of. It's just the beginning of a very long career. Another thing I’m also very proud of would be scoring my first short film. That was something where I was like, “...Oh my God, I can't believe I'm doing this!” These first times, in many ways, are just so shocking to me every time they happen. 

MM: Do you feel you have a social responsibility with your growing platform? 

E: I definitely have a responsibility, especially with the upcoming election. We live in such a divided world where anytime I post something semi-political on social media, I think, “...I just wish people wouldn't tell me their opposing views and be so negative.” But, I also think it’s important for us not to function in an echo chamber. You can't post something and expect everybody to agree with you. The purpose is to have discourse, and I will never tell anybody how or who to vote for, just vote. Please exercise your beautiful, political gift that many people work so hard for and just vote. I really believe it's important to use your platform and to, more importantly, use your story, as activism.

MM: Who is Ezinma, to you? 

E: I remember when I initially wanted to go into the music industry, I wanted to have a different persona. My birth name is Meredith and the people who really know me call me by my first name. But, when it came to my industry persona, I wanted to go by something different, so I chose my middle name, Ezinma. Meredith, is a very quiet, focused, disciplined, driven, type-A person, who is slightly reserved and quiet. On the other hand, Ezinma is a fierce, strong, badass, rock star. She’s an, “I don't care what you think,” type of woman and she's a little bit of my alter ego. 

MM: What would you say your personal style is like?

E: Quarantine style is a lot of sneakers, tracksuits, big sweaters, and just comfy clothing. Typically, my style is very classy with an edge. I also love mixing more masculine pieces with feminine pieces, but a lot of times I'm just a full out girly girl.

MM: Who would you say your ultimate style icon is? 

E: Rihanna, 100% Rihanna. I also love Tracee Ellis Ross’s monochromatic looks. 

Photographed by Krystena Patton

Creative Direction by Megan Morgante

Written by Megan Morgante

Styling by Alex Bullock

Makeup by Danii Parkes

Hairstyling by Zoe Catherine Davis